Policewomen in Indonesia became the center of international attention this week, when Human Rights Watch called for an end to government-sanctioned virginity tests. This test is also known as the “two-finger test” and it’s a vulgar violation of a woman’s vagina. The person administering the test uses two fingers to determine if a woman’s hymen had been broken. Though HRW says failing the test does not always result in an applicant’s expulsion, it is a humiliating experience for female recruits and an unreliable evaluation of a woman’s health. Although Indonesian Police insist the physical exams are administered by a health professional, the nature & accuracy of these tests is still highly questionable and blatantly violates the candidates’ rights.
Human Rights Watch interviewed servicewomen and women applying to join the police force in six different cities. Eight Indonesian policewomen and female applicants attested to being administered the degrading and painful test, admitting it was mandatory that all women in their police class take it. A police doctor, a police recruiter, a National Police Commission member and other human rights activists confirmed these reports.
The Indonesian Chief Police Guidelines for Candidates require all female applicants to undergo a physical exam that includes an “obstetrics and gynecology” evaluation. The regulations do not specify compulsory virginity testing. The health exams occur very early in the recruitment process and often include the dehumanizing and inaccurate two-finger test.
Indonesian police have offered conflicting reports on whether or not virginity testing is still enforced. In 2010, a then-head of Police stated that he would abolish the practice. An official at the Medical Center in Jakarta also insisted virginity testing had been discontinued. Witnesses whom HRW interviewed between May and October 2014, however, negated these statements.
Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations were quick to highlight the discriminating nature of these tests. Married women are not eligible to join the Indonesian police. Single women who apply are subjected to a demeaning, painful and defective form of testing that is not indicative of their ability to serve the police force.
The Indonesian National Police are currently attempting to bolster their forces with over 10,000 more servicewomen before the end of the year. Even if these recruitment efforts are met, women will then make up only five percent of the Indonesian police force.